With the Verizon iPhone, Apple today showcased a new software feature that comes pre-installed with the slightly-redesigned device: Personal Hotspot. Already available for several Android devices running on Verizon’s network and made deeply integrated into iOS with a new software build, Personal Hotspot will allow you to create a mobile WiFi network to share your 3G connection with up to 5 nearby WiFi devices. The feature, put simply, looks great: you can activate wireless tethering with literally two taps and a password, or go with Bluetooth and USB tethering. As suggested by Apple’s Phil Schiller himself, Personal Hotspot makes for a great alternative to popular MiFi hotspots and will allow iPad owners to carry around an iPhone on Verizon’s network and have constant access to the Internet even if the iPad is WiFi-only.
We don’t know yet if Personal Hotspot will find its way to AT&T or will be included by default in a future build of iOS (version 4.2.5 doesn’t sound quite right in my opinion), but I do know that, if the feature will stay Verizon-only, I’ll still be able to create a portable hotspot the way I’ve always done: with MyWi, an app for jailbroken iPhones you can buy in Cydia at $19.99.
TUAW spoke with the founder of Intelliborn (the company behind MyWi) Mario Ciabarra and, while he’s excited about Apple bringing mobile hotspots to the iPhone with a software update, he’s pretty sure that MyWi will be doing just fine. Indeed, MyWi provides more options than the ones seen today in Apple’s Personal Hotspot for the Verizon iPhone: it’s got the same WiFi, Bluetooth and USB tethering features, but it also comes with the possibility to set a channel and adjust transmit power, tweak the DHCP settings and display detailed battery information. MyWi displays active users connected to its WiFi network, too. MyWi and Personal Hotspot will likely offer the same set of core functionalities; Intelliborn’s application, however, provides more features that grant you more control over a WiFi network shared through your iPhone.
There is one aspect of Apple’s easy-to-use Personal Hotspot, though, that will sure disappoint many users who are not familiar with the restrictions imposed by CDMA: CDMA can’t use voice and data at the same time. Unlike iPhones running on AT&T’s network and contrary to Apple’s own commercials, the Verizon iPhone won’t let you call and browse the internet at the same time. That is a limitation on Verizon’s end, and there’s really anything much Apple can’t do about it. The same restriction will apply when using Personal Hotspot on Verizon: if you’re sharing your 3G connection with others and a phone call comes in, the tethering will drop to leave place to the Phone app. Just like old dial-up connections back in 90s. AT&T users relying on MyWi or, looking forward, Apple’s Personal Hotspot app, won’t of course experience the issue with voice and data simultaneously; not in tethering mode, not during calls. That’s how CDMA works, and Personal Hotspot won’t be an exception.
The fact that Apple may implement portable hotspot capabilities in iOS by default is just great. The feature used to be one of best advantages of Android over iOS and it’s good to see Apple catching up. Still, we don’t know if the functionality will be available outside the US, or to AT&T customers for that matter. What’s for sure is that MyWi is a solid (although paid) alternative that has always managed to get the job done and even offers more to play with for those willing to customize their mobile WiFi networks.
[image via TechCrunch]